Renovation & Design

Colourful memories

Right combination of hues can take us back to a special place

The power of colour is a wonderful gift. By choosing the right combination of hues, we can simply transform a room to suit whatever mood or style we favour. Colours are packed with memories of places we have lived in or visited; they layer the landscape of our minds with visions of beauty and majesty. We cherish the image of fields of lavender or a summer harvest of golden wheat, rocky grey mountains, soft green meadows and seaside shades of sand and turquoise water.

I am often asked if it is possible to integrate the colours and styles of other countries into one of today's modern homes. The architecture tends to be serviceable but not inspiring. Plain walls with little trim detail is the norm. And I say take advantage of the blank canvas and run with whatever your heart desires. The secret behind good decorating is a blend of imagination and continuity. If one or two elements flow from room to room, the overall effect will feel cohesive.

A friend of mine moved to Canada from India and asked me to help her integrate her past and present homes. She had brought a treasure trove of glorious sari fabrics ranging from deep emeralds to lemon yellows. Cushions, ottomans and carpets vibrated with the textures, designs and colours of India. Her living room was painted in a shade of yellow that did not have the right energy for her style. The fireplace had good lines that could be accentuated with some exotic motifs.

The two colours I chose for the walls were deep yellow ochre and orange terra cotta. By themselves, these shades are too heavy for the walls and would feel sombre. However, by mixing each of them with glazing liquid and applying them over the pale yellow, the colours are broken up and become textured layers of paint colour. I applied a yellow ochre glaze over the pale yellow base coat using a colour-wash technique, rubbing back the glaze with a soft rag to create light and dark areas and dabbing out any hard lines.

The fireplace was to be the focal area, and I wanted a slightly different texture here. I rolled the terra cotta glaze over the colour wash and used a stippling brush to create lines that imitate the look of fabric weave. Drag the stippling brush in a straight line through the wet glaze, wipe off the glaze collected on the brush and then repeat until all the horizontal lines are finished. Then repeat the process, moving in straight vertical lines.

The design for the decorative trim was traced from sari fabric. Choose your design and draw a template of the design onto a piece of cardboard and cut it out. I taped the template in position and traced the design around the fireplace surround with a pencil. I painted the forms freehand with jewel-tone acrylics and a small artist's brush. You can add more detail and sparkle to your design by outlining the forms with a gold paint pen. Use a ruler to keep the lines straight. The circles are cut from mirrored Con-Tact paper and outlined with contrasting artist's acrylic.

We made simple curtains with some of the sari panels and the room was complete. My friend is now happily surrounded by the colours and textures she loves and makes her house a home.

Debbie Travis' House to Home column is produced by Debbie Travis and Barbara Dingle. Please email your questions to You can follow Debbie on Twitter at, and visit Debbie's new website,



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